As the saying goes, it’s déjà vu all over again.
As India tries to seek a compromise formula for early expansion of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Pakistan, fearing that India could become a permanent member, is attempting to thwart that initiative.
If seats in the permanent category are increased, India is among the favourites to occupy one of them.
However, Pakistan, acting through the group Uniting for Consensus or UFC, is attempting to stymie the process of addition of permanent seats.
On Wednesday, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Hardeep Singh Puri reiterated the position that the thorny issue of new permanent members getting the veto could be resolved by postponing it for a review later.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Puri said that the proposal was that “the new permanent members shall not exercise the right of veto until the question of the extension of the right of veto to new permanent members has been decided upon in the framework of the review mandated 15 years after the entry into force of the Council reform.”
This was an affirmation of the position adopted by the G-4 countries – India, Germany, Japan and Brazil.
While this part of India’s efforts to build on the momentum in favour of UNSC reform through acceptable compromises, Pakistan is one of a handful of nations that does not want to see the number of permanent seats increased.
Instead, Pakistan has proposed that rather than adding permanent seats, the number of non-permanent seats be increased from the present 10 to 20, bringing the size of the Council to 25 including the five permanent members that already exist.
That proposal also envisages that seven of the 20 non-permanent seats be of longer duration than the two-year terms that are in place.
Obviously, India has not taken kindly to this obstructionist tactic.
Speaking at the General Assembly recently, Ambassador Puri was candid about what he thought of Pakistan’s position.
He said, “My distinguished colleague from Pakistan seems to believe that having more permanent members would make the Council more opaque and elitist! I also heard other arguments stating that only a smaller number would make an effective Council. If we were to carry this reasoning to its logical conclusion, the Council would be at its effective best when it has only one member!”
There may be a sense of chagrin within the Indian camp as the negotiating document that will form the framework for reform of the Council has reached an ungainly 32 pages.
India has consistently argued that the text should contain proposals that reflect the compromise view of the majority of the countries rather than outliers.
The outliers include Pakistan’s efforts to scrap expansion in the permanent category, for which it has the support of countries like Canada, Colombia and Italy.